Increasing balance has three basic steps. The first is to determine the type of balance you wish to achieve. Next is to perform “goal specific activities” and the third is “narrowing the base of support” during your activity.
We often think of balance terms of walking on a narrow beam like a gymnast. Imagine that you are a wrestler. You need to maintain your balance against an opponent that is trying to take you to the ground. How about a boxer that requires a very different program than a power lifter under several hundred pounds of unforgiving metal.
There are as many forms or balance as they are activities. And there are even more ways to reach and improve balance based on your individual makeup and needs.
The first step is to determine what is the purpose of balance for you. Without a clear goal that requires balance it is difficult for you to take the next step which is to select the right type of balance exercises.
A gymnast practices on the balance beam because her goal is to win gymnastic competitions that require extreme balance on the beam.
A wrestler, on the other hand, performs balance exercises against the resistance that is usually side to side. Walking on a balance beam does not help a wrestler.
Performing activities that are related to your goal is called specificity principle in fitness.
Once you figure out the type of activities you need to perform then you can focus on narrowing your base of support within that activity.
For example, a gymnast begins with standing on wider surfaces and gradually she narrows her stance to the width of a balance beam and finally she begins lifting one foot off. In each step, she narrows her base of support that increases her balance.
Balance training exercises for a wrestler includes performing anti-rotation core exercises to develop the muscles that help him stay stable against force. The base of support in anti-rotation core exercises with wide feet stance. Gradually, during core exercises he narrows his stance that is his base of support to increase his strength in keeping balance and redirecting force.
If a workout program does not rely on narrowing your base of support, it is not a balance exercise plan.
Balance exercises are not sports specific there also age-related. Age is not necessarily chronological age. Many times people who do not exercise regularly and consume mostly processed food, are older than what is on their birth certificate.
As we age and through lack of use especially in our lower body, we lose the strength to manage the energy that should pass from upper body to our feet and control the ground reaction forces that return through our feet to the upper body.
With the lost balance, confidence in the ability in feet placement is reduced. To compensate for this lack of strength and confidence older individuals begin looking down at the feet to place them correctly. This compensation further reduces the natural balance within the body by mis-aligning the head and neck.
Exercises to improve balance related to aging should begin by relearning to lift the chest and head up and return the responsibility of our balance to our sense of proprioception instead of our eyes.
Sense of proprioception is what tells our brain where our body is without looking.
Aging is not necessarily chronological. The same lack of confidence in loss of sense of proprioception happens at any age and usually is accompanied by loss of strength in the intrinsic muscles of the feet, calves, legs, and glutes.
If you’re over 40 and trying to maintain your balance, a systematic workout plan would start at your feet and then move up through your body. Balance exercise is needed at any age but the need is more obvious over the age of 40. Fitness over 40 and over 50 workouts must include foundational balance training.
How to improve your balance in simple steps!
A simple balance exercise can do is to stand with your feet together, touching each other. See if you can hold the position for one minute.
The next progression is to narrow the base of support from side to side by placing your feet in front of each other.
Begin by placing your right foot in front of your left on a straight line. Your right heel is touching your left toe. Try to see if he can hold his position for one minute. Then reverse your stance by placing your left foot in front of the right and repeat the process.
It is natural for your balance to be off on one side more. This indicates that the muscles on one side of your body are tensor and are more active than the other. And the muscles on the opposite side are weaker and less active.
Part of the balance exercise plan at any age especially over 40 and 50 years old is is to release the tension on the tight side and build the strength on the opposite side so that signals pass from your brain to your body in a symmetrical way.